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HBA beats Damien to grab third, final ILH D-II state spot

Feb. 4—Kaitlyn Maruya scored 13 points to lead a balanced attack as Hawaii Baptist stifled Damien, 42-32, on Saturday to capture third place in ILH Division II.

The Eagles sealed the ILH's third and final berth in the Division II state tournament. HBA has now qualified for 15 consecutive D-II state tournaments. Maryknoll and Hanalani had already qualified for berths, leaving the remainder of the ILH's D-II teams — and the top three from Division III — in a three-day elimination tourney.

"How physical they are and how hard Damien plays, we just knew they were going to come in and compete, and want it just as much as us," Eagles assistant coach Isaac Hayashi said. "We just had to be locked in and know our responsibilities. We know how good they are and how quickly they can score. We wanted to make sure we keep them off balance, keep them as uncomfortable as much as we could."

The two teams were tied in third place to end the regular season with 7-5 marks. Hawaii Baptist ousted La Pietra, 68-14, and Mid-Pacific, 37-34, to reach the tourney final.

Damien and HBA had split their regular-season games, the home team winning each time. Two weeks ago, Damien edged HBA, 39-36.

On Saturday, HBA's mix of halfcourt man-to-man, and tight halfcourt and fullcourt zone presses kept a lid on the visiting Monarchs.

Sierra Ramos, one of the toughest slashers in D-II, added 10 points, Lauren Okuda tallied nine points while Terra Kawamoto battled inside for seven rebounds against Damien senior center Kianna Cueto, who had a game-high 11 rebounds for Damien, but finished with just two points.

"Watching (Cueto) all year, we knew she's a weapon, how agile she is. Terra has done such a great job all year," Hayashi said. "Just battling. We're not going to be the biggest. Just staying active, getting tips when we can."

HBA (13-8 overall) will begin play in the Heide & Cook/HHSAA Division II State Championships 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kalani gym. The Eagles will play Hawaii Prep, which features the state's leading scorer, Brooke Samura (35 points per game).

Playing with an ankle injury, senior guard Kenna Wengler scored 11 of her game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter for Damien. Junior wing Brielle Nueku added 11 points, five boards and two blocks. Senior guard Kody Wengler did not play due to a volleyball trip.

"Right now, I'm a little frustrated, but more so just disheartened for the girls. Our goal is to go to states and they definitely had some ups and downs this season. We just came up short at the end," Monarchs coach Mark Arquero said. "HBA is well coached. They've always been fundamentally sound. Every year from the first time I took over our program, it doesn't matter who he has, (HBA) is always well-prepared, they execute well and play really good team basketball."

The Eagles went on an 10-0 run in the first half to open a 14-4 lead. Wengler splashed a 3 and Nueku scored five points in a row to bring the Monarchs with 17-12 late in the first half, but they never got closer.

Damien went cold from the field during the third stanza, shooting 0-for-9 from the field with four turnovers.

The Eagles then opened the fourth quarter with a corner 3 by Okuda and a wing 3 by Kawamoto to help open the lead to 36-17, their biggest of the game.

This was Damien's first season back in D-II after playing a year in D-I. The roster was a mix of returnees and inexperienced hoopsters.

"We have a bunch of seniors in their first year of playing basketball. That was the challenge for this year. We have a lot of volleyball and softball players on our team," Arquero said. "We tried to make it work. The scope of the season, I'm very proud of them."

D-II bracket released

Kapaa is the top seed in the bracket released on Saturday by the HHSAA. Kapaa will play the Hawaii Prep-Hawaii Baptist winner on Wednesday.

ILH champion Maryknoll is seeded second and will meet the Farrington-Kohala winner on Wednesday.

Kamehameha-Hawaii was seeded third despite recent wins over Top 10 powerhouses Konawaena and Waiakea. The Warriors will play the Molokai-Kapolei winner on Wednesday.

OIA champion McKinley is the fourth seed. The Lady Tigers take on the Lanai-Hanalani winner on Wednesday.